This recipe confirms the theory that the simpler the recipe, the more delicious. I threw this casserole together with what I had on hand the other night without imagining I could make a blog post out of this recipe, but it hit such a big home run and was so I-can’t-believe-my-tastebuds amazing that I photographed what was leftover to publish the recipe.
Freddy and I don’t get along on a lot of things concerning food but more and more it seems that we’re in sync. For the past couple of weeks, he’s been saying “THIS has to be your signature recipe”, “You have to give this one a name” and “Did you take pictures of this one? It has to go on the blog”. People, this is completely unexpected. I mean, if you’ve read my previous ramblings, you know that Freddy was more the kind to say “I’m not into the whole veggie thing”. Until recently I only cooked dinner for myself and he’d reheat some kind of spaghetti-meatballs for himself. And when I did cook something for the both of us, he would have this annoying habit of adding oregano and parmesan to absolutely everything (i.e. to make it taste a little more like pizza…. aaaah men). I can’t count the number of times our attempt to cook something together ended in absolute drama, but to give you an idea, there were tears and questioning of our relationship involved a good number of times! Ok, yes, I don’t take criticism (or “constructive feedback” as he calls it) very well in the kitchen, I never said I was perfect. But who says to their foodblogging girlfriend that her food is flavorless and expect a hug? It took me a week to get over that one.
Anyways, there’s a revolution under way ever since Freddy started taking more interest towards Paleo principles. I had made a big amount of leftovers with this recipe so we could both have some the next day. Freddy got to the fridge before me, packed his lunch and fled the scene to go to work with ALL the delicious chicken and broccoli leftovers – and there were easily 2 to 3 servings in there. Dang it! I’m sure it tasted even more amazing the next day after having sat in the flavors overnight and with the cream having thickened in the refrigerator. Switching to a gluten-free, paleo diet makes people selfish with food I’ll tell you that.
So what made this casserole so amazing? The broth, the bacon, and the concentration of flavors that you obtain through the way you cook it. You know how sometimes you make something and it’s tasty, but you can distinguish the flavors like the garlic and the herbs and the salt as separate? It’s so rare and satisfying when you can’t tell the different flavors apart and it feels like they have all combined and melted together into one unique and indescribable flavor. Who’s calling who’s food flavorless now eh?
Recipe: Creamy Chicken, Cauliflower and Broccoli Bake
500g of boneless, skinless chicken breast (preferably brined for a few hours for more tender chicken)
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium onion
3.5 oz (100g) of fresh bacon, cut up into chunks
1 cup (230ml) of coconut milk
1/2 cup (115 ml) of vegetable or chicken broth
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
1. Optional: Brine the chicken for 1 to 6 hours in a salt-water solution beforehand for extra tenderness.
2. Preheat the oven to 410°F. Place the broccoli and cauliflower florets in a baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper (no need to add olive oil) and roast for about 40 minutes until they are lightly brown and crispy around the edges.
3. Chop the bacon into pieces. In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Set aside in a plate and add the chicken pieces to the pan to brown in the remaining bacon fat (add a tablespoon or so of olive oil if needed). Make sure the chicken pieces are not touching each other, otherwise they will release water and won’t brown. Let brown on one side for 2 minutes, then turn the pieces over with a pair of tongs and brown for another two minutes. Work in batches if your pan is too small. Set aside in the same plate as the bacon.
4. Chop the onion and mince the garlic. In the same pan, add more olive oil and cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the coconut milk and broth and scrape the brown bits from the chicken and bacon at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. This will concentrate all the flavors into the creamy sauce. Add a pinch of salt and a good crack of pepper (to taste, depending on the saltiness of your broth) and let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes on low heat.
5. Take out the broccoli and cauliflower florets from the oven, they should now be brown and crispy. Add the chicken, bacon and sauce and stir around to combine. Put the dish back in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
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